Cannabis use is on the rise globally. Interestingly, baby boomers and women make up the fastest growing segments of the market. Whether seeking relief from pain, menopause, stress, or a host of other ailments, individuals across the world are increasingly seeking cannabis as a form of medicine or as a recreational tool. Because the industry is rapidly evolving, a plethora of new products are now available to consumers. This piece will touch on different methods of consuming cannabis so that you can make a more informed choice about what works best for you.
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Smoking or inhaling cannabis is what traditionally comes to mind when thinking about weed. Inhaled cannabis is enjoyed by many as their preferred method of consumption. Cannabis can taste really amazing and many folks simply enjoy firing up a bowl or a joint. The process can become somewhat ritualistic and for me personally, I always derived satisfaction from handling the flower, smelling it, putting it in my pipe and watching it burn. Many also prefer the effects of inhaled cannabis as it hits you really quickly, often on the exhale for strong flower and extracts. Effects tend to last from 1-3 hours for experienced users, longer for newcomers.
Smoking though, isn’t the healthiest of activities. Cannabis burns hot and can be irritating to the throat. Some research also shows that compounds found in cannabis can become carcinogenic when heated. While no direct causal link has been found between cannabis smoke and cancer diagnosis, the plant does contain certain chemicals deemed harmful. Smoking cannabis also produces a very strong odor that some find offensive and smoking is also a terribly inefficient way to get cannabinoids into your system. 50% of the active compounds are lost directly to flame, and another perhaps 20% are lost upon exhale.
Vaporizing is another form of inhaled cannabis that more and more consumers are adopting. When vaporizing at lower heat, plant resins and oils melt without burning plant material and without allowing tars and burning embers to enter your mouth. Because vape devices burn at lower temperatures, fewer potential carcinogens are associated with this method. This method is also essentially odorless and can be a very discrete way of consuming. Vaping is also a far more efficient way to consume cannabis that preserves over twice as many cannabinoids as smoking.
Caution must be taken though. Vaporizing, especially cannabis oils, can be a very powerful delivery method not suitable for novice users. Additionally, research is now showing that not all vape devices are created equal. Some include metal alloys and plastics inappropriate for heating, and some cartridges have shown to contain other contaminants as well. Using high quality devices with medical grade inputs is important.
Edibles refer to cannabis products that we eat. Because smoking is associated with certain social stigma and heath concerns, many find edibles to be an appropriate alternative. Unlike inhaled cannabis which goes directly to the central nervous system, edibles must be digested by the stomach and metabolized in the liver before effects are felt. As such, depending on your metabolism and what’s in your stomach at the time of consumption, the onset of effects can take between 30 minutes and 2 hours. A plethora of products are coming to market and I personally find that those made with distillate (an odorless, tasteless substance) are the most enjoyable as some foods have a strong cannabis taste…most pronounced in chocolates I find. The effect of edibles lasts quite a while, up to 6-8 hours for some, longer for the less experienced or if a very high dose is taken. Those with chronic pain and sleep issues find a nighttime edible to be very beneficial.
Edibles are stronger than inhaled forms of cannabis and need to approached cautiously. I overshot one time on a brownie. Damn thing tasted like ganja sludge and I frankly should have known better. I got sick, was an odd sort of green/yellow for several hours, and the effect lasted all day. When edibles are broken down by the body the THC (active ingredient that gets you high) converts to a stronger form which explains the increased potency. I have also heard several stories of children and pets accidentally consuming edibles, so for those with families, extreme precaution must be taken to keep products safe, secure, and away from unwanted hands (or paws).
Tinctures are cannabis infused liquids made from alcohol or oils most generally. Tinctures are designed to be used under the tongue and are administered with a dropper. With this sublingual delivery, active compounds enter the bloodstream and the onset of effect is much quicker. Duration tends to be around several hours. Were you to swallow the tincture instead, it would essentially become an edible with slower onset.
I enjoy the effect of tinctures but have found homemade versions disgusting as I don’t like the taste of alcohol or oil. For many though, this discrete form of consumption is a go to method.
Topicals are another interesting method of consuming cannabis. Creams and salves are becoming increasingly available and with this method, cannabis will not show up on drug screening tests if that’s a concern for you. Topicals are being used for skin beautification, localized pain management and therapeutic massage namely. This method of consumption will not get you high and has a relatively rapid onset of effects around 30 minutes. Duration tends to be around 2-4 hours. Like all things, specifics matter. Understanding how much active ingredient is in each product is important and will indicate how much relative value a product has.
Transdermal Patches, akin to a nicotine patch, are growing in interest and availability. With a patch, medicine is released slowly, providing ongoing relief for those who need it. It’s important to note that unlike salves or balms, a transdermal patch will show up on drug screens.
Because deliver of active compounds can be somewhat limited through a patch, they should be placed on venous tissue where there is less fat and softer skin. Research is underway in this area to improve delivery, so we can expect to see further developments in months and years to come.
Raw Cannabis is being labeled as a super food by some in the industry. Cannabis acids like CBDa and THCa are available in raw plant material that has not been heated, so folks usually juice cannabis or eat it as an ingredient in salads. Full of antioxidants, omega’s and amino acids, raw acids have been shown to improve immune function and serve as anti inflammatories. Raw consumption is non-psychoactive so it will not get you high. Cannabis trichomes can be a bit hard to digest, so some practitioners recommend eating only immature cannabis leaves, while others believe that eating both leaves and flowers is the way to go. Raw cannabis can also taste bitter, so complimenting with another tasty fruit or vegetable can make your experience more enjoyable.